Things have just never calmed down for the Bengals offensive line this season, ever since that hectic draft weekend.
It seems like a solar eclipse ago, but that was when the Bengals selected Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams in the first round and then two days later traded back up into a round for the first time in their history when they selected Ohio State guard Michael Jordan in the fourth. Now, two days before their seventh game Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against the Jaguars (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), the news just kept coming when they announced a one-game suspension for left tackle Cordy Glenn for disciplinary reasons.
"No comment," said head coach Zac Taylor after Friday's practice, but the move said plenty. It came in the wake of reports this week that despite being cleared for practice for the first time in two months Glenn objected to how the Bengals handled his injury and that there had been a confrontation as well as a $200,000 fine for detrimental conduct.
It's been a tough year up front, which is an understatement as big as Fred Johnson, the 6-8, 326-pound rookie plucked off the Steelers' waivers back on Monday and is suddenly the back-up left tackle and a snap away from making his pro debut.
Williams blew out his shoulder in the spring and may return by December. The dean of the group, left guard Clint Boling, retired before training camp at age 30 with a blood clot. Glenn, who was supposed to be the left guard next to Williams, moved back out to left tackle but was only there about two weeks. Old friend Andre Smith, a right tackle on six Bengals' play-off teams, suddenly became a left tackle when he re-signed for the third time in three years. They're playing their fourth left tackle against the Jags with converted guard John Jerry replacing the converted Smith, out last game and this one with an ankle injury.
Center Billy Price, last year's No. 1 pick, was supplanted by Trey Hopkins and made the transition to left guard when Jordan struggled against Pittsburgh and Arizona. He makes his second straight start there Sunday. When starting right guard John Miller injured his groin eight plays into last Sunday's game, Alex Redmond came off the bench after a week he worked at left tackle following a month absence because of a league suspension. He starts again Sunday.
So much has happened since mid-August, it's hard to even remember that in the pre-season game in Washington they lined up with Glenn at left tackle and Jordan at left guard. Andre Smith, like his coach, had no comment about Glenn. He's just trying to get back in time to play the Rams in London next week.
"A lot of shuffling, but the good thing is we have trust in the guys that are playing out there right now," Andre Smith said. "We have a really good room. A lot of guys are coming in to work hard every day. They want to get better. It's a good group of guys."
Imagine if they didn't have Smith? Even though he had only played left tackle in one game before starting the first four this year, at age 32 he gives them some ballast and 11 seasons. As he walked past the towering Johnson he said, "Look at how tall this guy is. Give me some of that height." When someone reminded Smith how young he was, he said, "Yeah and five years."
"John (Jerry) has been doing a really job stepping in during my absence," Smith said. "I think Billy is getting more comfortable at left guard. He's doing some really good stuff. As far as Redmond, you're going to get what you're going to get. He's going to go hard every single play and try to kill the guy. Great guy. He played really well (last week)."
Smith is working on his third line coach in Cincinnati and has struck up a special rapport with Jim Turner. When they needed help so late in July, Turner felt lucky to get Smith's experience and attitude.
"Jim's a great teacher as far as implementing whatever we're going in with that week," Smith said. "He breaks it down really well. Overall technique, he does a really good job in that as far as trying different things during the week you can put into your game to make your job easier."
With their third straight different combo up front, the Bengals are hoping to put together the best hits of the last two games. Two weeks ago against Arizona they rushed for a season-high 108 yards and last week the Ravens didn't sack quarterback Andy Dalton until the last hurry-up drive.
"We're still working to find that chemistry up front," Taylor said back at the start of the week. "These guys need reps side by side. That hasn't happened. Billy and John Jerry, side-by-side, have probably gotten a day together. Redmond – zero days. They're not mistargeted in the protections. There aren't guys running free … Overall in the last two games, especially in the protections, they've been targeted. They've done a nice job. Andy gets hit occasionally, but they've prevented the sacks. We just need to get the run game going. We talk about it every day. We're trying to find the best answers. We're trying to find the best rhythm for the five guys that are (on the line). 'What do each of them do best? What's the best way to find success?' It's an ongoing conversation that's nonstop."
To match the news.
QUEZ RETURN: Glenn's suspension made room for cornerback Darqueze Dennard to come right off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) in a week and most likely start with William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick out. It would be Dennard's 20th start in his 69th game, so he's not all that worried about catching up with the speed even though it was his first week of practice since the last week of last year.
"We did some competitive stuff through the week, so I'm not worried that much," Dennard said. "I've got experience. I know what it takes. Tackling is the hardest part to simulate in practice. Just being in the right position in practice. The little stuff is what makes the difference between making a tackle and missing a tackle. I think I simulated that in practice. We'll see,"
Dennard is arriving in the nick of time now that his knee is healed. The Achilles' heel of the Bengals No. 32 run defense is the failure to defend the edge and Dennard is known as one of the team's best tacklers.
"Just looking outside in it seems like there were a lot of missed one-on-one tackles," Dennard said. "We've got to get back running to the football, flying around and gang tackling. We'll be all right."
Dennard is upbeat about making that first tackle in ten months.
"I love the game. You don't really know how much you do until it's taken away," Dennard said. "I thank God for allowing me to get back into it and help this team win."
EDGE HELP: No surprise if you've been following the injury report. Their two best edge rushers are out, Carlos Dunlap (knee) and Carl Lawson (hamstring) and that leaves them with one who is a starting end (Sam Hubbard) and one who could be making his first NFL start in Andrew Brown, the 2018 fifth-rounder in his fifth game. It's a tough game to be missing any defensive linemen because the Jags routinely roll out massive six-man offensive lines with an extra tackle. Taylor wouldn't say Brown is starting because if the Bengals have to get real funky they could kick out tackles like Ryan Glasgow and rookie nose tackle Renell Wren.
So all hands on deck and that means the newly arrived Anthony Zettel. Taylor guaranteed that the newest Bengal (by 24 hours over Fred Johnson) is going to get some snaps at defensive end, making him the fourth Bengal whose name starts with a "Z," and once he takes that snap he'll become the last name on the all-time roster behind Carl Zander, Kevin Zeitler and Ray Zellars.
As the 6-4, 274-pound Zettel will you, he was "on the couch," when the Bengals called after tryouts with the Cardinals, Packers and Vikings following his release by Cleveland the week before the season. He's 27, a sixth-round pick of the Lions in the 2016 draft out of Penn State and has 7.5 career sacks in 44 games, which is more than any D-lineman they have dressed Sunday but Hubbard and tackle Geno Atkins.
Zettel had 6.5 of them in 2017 when he started 16 games for the Lions, but none in the Bengals win over the Lions at PBS in a game he had two tackles. A native of northern Michigan (West Branch's Ogemaw High School), Zettel played 15 games for the Browns last season without a sack and took a combined 20 snaps against the Bengals in two games. He says he brings "toughness. I'm a technical guy. I think I can make plays.
"I'm just learning the defense, studying extra," Zettel said. "I feel great. I'm rested up and ready."